Social allows you to dream big on a small budget

Ever since social media burst onto the scene in the early 2000s, ad spend has increased year on year. Social media is currently driving better cost-effectiveness and reach on target audiences than traditional broadcast TV, and it’s estimated that this will only rise further, with social spend reaching $219.8 billion by the end of 2024.

For startups and SMEs, the allure of a big TV ad can be tempting, but is it the smartest choice for those with tighter budgets and a need for immediate, measurable results?

For years, TV advertising was the gold standard for reaching a broad audience. With big brands investing millions in high-production commercials, it became an aspirational goal for SMEs and startups alike – a North Star and key milestone in their growth journey. However, the landscape has shifted dramatically – with the previously ‘expected’ routes to scale marketing plans no longer delivering the results they once did. Audiences are now increasingly turning to social platforms, where they scroll, consume content, and engage with brands in more interactive and measurable ways. And social media spaces like Meta and TikTok offer unprecedented opportunities for targeted advertising that not only reaches vast audiences but also can deliver direct income, delivering impact across the funnel. A much more suitable option for growth brands that need to tackle objectives of brand building and generating income at pace.

Social Killed the TV Star

Social media has dramatically reshaped consumption habits by offering on-demand, interactive, and targeted content that caters to individual preferences – a stark contrast to traditional broadcast channels and their fixed programming schedules. And as the number of people on social media rises, the number of people consuming traditional media falls – according to a report by eMarketer (May 2023), there will be more social users than TV viewers in the US by 2025. So this shift is all about also future-proofing your strategies.

Meta and TikTok have become powerhouses in the advertising world, especially for businesses who are particularly guarded with their marketing expenditure. Meta's winning hand is their precision targeting and growing AI-powered Advantage+ solutions, which ensure that brand content is seen by those most likely to be interested, and with the biggest conversion potential. What TikTok has provided instead is a level playing field for businesses of all sizes. With the right content and audience tactics, a small startup has the potential to go viral overnight and reach thousands of potential customers without the need for a massive advertising budget.

Taking a step back from the specifics, the most significant advantage of social platforms like these over traditional broadcast channels is their effectiveness to deliver on target reach, and its ability to measure results accurately. There’s no denying TV brings in mass reach but often ads reach a distracted viewer who is probably using their phone at the same time. And tracking the direct impact on sales from TV is notoriously difficult.

On the flip side, social platforms provide detailed analytics that allow businesses to track impressions, engagements, conversions, and sales in real time. For startups and SMEs, this level of insight is invaluable. You can understand what works, optimise campaigns on the fly, and ensure every pound you spend contributes to your bottom line.

Navigate a Landscape in Constant Acceleration

But we’re talking about a very rich and ever-changing territory, where brands are spoilt for choice to surface content and connect with consumers. YouTube Shorts, Reels, TikTok Shop, micro-influencers, immersive paid social ads – where should you place your focus? Navigating this complex environment requires finding the right solutions for your audience and your business. It's not about doing as much as possible across every social media platform (a recipe for overwhelm especially for smaller businesses with limited resources); starting nimble with the right focuses can deliver the results you need. At eight&four, we always recommend expert guidance to help you identify which basket to put your eggs in, and how to make the omelette.

The key ingredient for SMEs and startups? Balancing marketing spend across channels that deliver the most bang for your buck. Indeed, social should be at the forefront of your investment plans, but with a focus on platforms that offer the best opportunities to connect with your target audiences and drive them to action. We understand this might not be a decision you can take lightly, especially with limited budgets – you might need to build a business case for it. The good thing is that with social media, you are not going in blind. Action plans to drive growth and income for your brand will have clear estimations and KPIs, which we can effectively work toward thanks to the level of control over optimisations and quick content pivoting that the platforms allow.

In a nutshell

As competition increases, it becomes even more critical to prioritise channels that deliver measurable results across the funnel. Social platforms offer unparalleled reach and content opportunities, alongside advanced tools to drive performance success. Start shifting your marketing budget toward these spaces, and we guarantee you will effectively reach your audiences and achieve the tangible outcomes you need.

So, if you're still dreaming of that big TV ad, it might be time to wake up to the potential of social media. Your budget – and your bottom line – will thank you.